Ever since the Mississippi 8 began, Buffalo, along with St. Michael-Albertville, has been the class of the Mississippi 8 conference. Tuesday night, at Monticello High School, class was in session. But this time, the Magic were leading it.
Monticello jumped out to a seven point halftime lead thanks to a buzzer beater from Kallie Gau, then continued to extend the lead past 20 midway through the second half on their way to a 71-51 conference win over the Bison. The win, following a loss to Rogers last Thursday and a Friday night win over St. Cloud Tech, moves the Magic to 18-4 and 4-2 in Mississippi 8 play. It also gives them a season sweep of Buffalo.
“To me personally, that’s a huge deal,” said Junior Grace Sawatzke, who is in her fourth year on varsity. “STMA and Buffalo have been the two teams in the conference I’ve never beaten. Beating Buffalo twice this year has been a huge deal for me. It’s a great accomplishment.”
Sawatzke played a large role in making it happen.
The guard’s second three of the game, and the fourth for the team, extended the Magic lead to 17-8, just under seven minutes into the game.
When the Bison made an ensuing run to cut it to two, Sawatzke came in off the bench to hit a free throw one possession, followed by a three the next, ending the only real run the Bison would put together on the night.
Sawatzke finished the first half with 14 points, and added a beautiful skip pass to Gau who finished with a clutch running floater to give the Magic a 34-27 lead at the half.
“That was a huge hit,” said Coach Craig Geyen.
In the second half, Monticello came out and did it with defense. They forced turnovers at a high clip, and took advantage out in transition early and often.
“[We] really shut down [Emily] Spier in the second half,” said Geyen. “Then they had a little lull and we just kept going.”
The Magic scored 17 of the half’s first 21 points, thanks to the dynamic play of combo guards Sawatzke (20 points) and Lentner (18 points).
“They did a lot of good things,” said Geyen. “When those two are clicking like that, it just seems like we flow a lot better.”
When those two are clicking it also opens up opportunities for others. Christine Lui can take advantage of open three point looks, Bailey Bechtold (12 points) can work in the post, and Gabby Laimer (eight points) can continue to find ways to score on offense. Tuesday night, Laimer crashed the glass to earn a tough offensive rebound and a putback, capping Monticello’s half-opening run and giving the home team a 51-31 advantage with 10 minutes to play.
From there, the Magic would hold court. Buffalo never threatened, and Monticello was content to nurse the lead right where it was at. It resulted in Monticello’s fourth conference victory, and one they felt like they really needed.
“We just lost to Rogers so we needed a conference win,” said Sawatzke. “We want to keep working our way back up to the top.”
The Magic are currently tied with Rogers for second-place in the Missisippi 8. They are two games behind first-place STMA. The Magic travel to Big Lake Friday night for a 7:15 tip, before hosting STMA, Cambridge and Rogers to finish off the regular season.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com